ABSENT-MINDED students are coming home from lectures and parties to find their homes broken into – by police.
Officers and PCSOs are walking through the city’s student areas, trying doors before wandering into the insecure houses and leaving a trail of bright yellow footprints inside.
The shock tactic, which sees students returning home to find a pathway of footprints around their laptops, TV sets and games consoles, is just one of the ways Cheshire police are hoping to stop students becoming victims of crime while they are living away from home for the first time.
Ever since fresher’s week police working in the Garden Quarter have been helping students and residents in the area – stopping late night parties, discouraging anti social behaviour and helping to keep the peace.
Now, Cheshire police have revealed to The Chronicle that their more unusual tactics are working, with crime in the area dropping by 2.5% and the force celebrating one of their most successful and peaceful freshers’ weeks ever.
Sergeant Andy Burrage, who studied at the University of Chester and has lived as a resident in the Garden Quarter, said his officers were using Facebook to spread crime warnings and issue advice to students on a massive scale.
“Over the two weeks for Freshers there were only two students arrested out of 4,000, which is a really low number,” said Sgt Burrage, who said the footprint tactic was meant to shock students into locking their doors and their cars.
“From experience students don’t tend to get violent, they just get drunk and make stupid mistakes. There is clearly some friction between students and residents, but most get on really well.
“Most of the problems revolve around noise, students coming home early in the morning and not thinking about their neighbours who have to get up to go to work. This is part of a long term initiative to reduce anti-social behaviour by having officers in the area at that time of night.”
During fresher’s week, police try to spread messages concerning personal safety, alcohol awareness and anti-social behaviour by setting up stalls at fairs, posting messages on the student union’s Facebook page and even speaking at welcome events in front of 1500 students.
“It is incredible how much information we can get out to students over social networking sites,” said Sgt Burrage, who said work with the student population was never over as the tenants changed every year.
“Everyone seems to check their Facebook every couple of minutes so we can let them know if a burglary has happened within minutes, and can potentially stop others from being a victim of crime.”